Best and Worst Performers at the World Cup

Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Holland's captain at the World Cup, was a stand-out defender. Courtesy Paul Blank

By The Soccer Guys

Kevin’s Picks:

Strikers

Diego Forlan – Forlan was the most dangerous striker on the field every time Uruguay suited up. He was handed the Golden Ball by FIFA as the World Cup’s best player, and he deserved it. He scored vital goals and did everything for the underrated and under-appreciated Uruguay team.

David Villa – Villa’s five goals tied him for the Golden Boot with Forlan, Germany’s Thomas Mueller, Uruguay’s Diego Forlan and Holland’s Wesley Sneijder, and his goals saved Spain from elimination. Without Villa, Spain might have been watching the final match from home rather than playing and winning the world’s biggest sporting event.

Midfielders

Wesley Sneijder – Did the Dutch have enough talent to make it to the finals without Sneijder playing at his best level? Maybe, but it isn’t a given. The little man in the midfield had a great year with Inter Milan and topped off his year by scoring five pivotal goals for Holland on its run to the finals. Sneijder was the cog that made the Dutch offense go, and his ability to control play and pass the ball made the Netherlands almost unbeatable.

Bastian Schweinsteiger – All the talk surrounding Germany was about Michael Ballack’s injury and how much it would effect them. Schweinstieger made everyone forget about that as he led the second youngest team in the tournament to a third-place finish.

Thomas Muller – Every World Cup has its emerging stars, the brightest of the 2010 World Cup has to be Muller. Muller started just about every game for the German Champions, Bayern Munich, and impressed during the Bundesliga and Champions League this season. But no one expected him to win the Golden Boot for most goals scored in South Africa. The 20 year old has plenty of great years ahead of him.

Javier Mascherano – The captain of Argentina was asked to control play for the Albiceleste and he did just that for much of the tournament. Without Mascherano breaking up the opponents’ attack, Argentina’s slow and aging defense would have been exposed sooner.

Defenders

Carlos Puyoul and Gerard Pique – Spain’s center backs were the heart of an impenetrable wall behind a talented and attack-minded midfield. Spain allowed only two goals in its run to a World Championship, and Puyol and Pique were the reason why.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst – van Bronckhorst will be remembered for his 40-yard bomb against Uruguay in the Semifinals and his leadership in the tournament. His last ever game as a soccer player was a dramatic loss in the World Cup final, but his performance in the tournament as a whole was great as he managed a tough defense and helped keep the peace in the Netherlands locker room.

Philipp Lahm – Lahm took over the captain’s armband from Ballack and led the young Germans to a third-place finish. He was always dangerous going forward, and had the pace to get back and recover when caught out of position.

Goalkeeper

Iker Casillas – Spain won the World Cup by playing good defense and controlling play, not by lighting up the scoreboard like many people thought. Spain scored eight goals — the lowest ever by a World Cup Champion — but only allowed two, and Casillas is a major reason why. His one-on-one stop on Arjen Robben in the Finals will haunt the Dutch winger for the rest of his life. And his performance against Paraguay saved Spain from falling behind and an early exit from the finals.

Ryan’s Starting XI

Forwards

Diego Forlan – One of the most feared and in-form forwards of the tournament. Forlan kept his team in the entire tournament alongside Ajax striker Luis Suarez. Unfortunately for the Atletico Madird star and Uruguay, the team relied perhaps too heavily on him in the semifinal where his fatigue finally caught up to him. Forlan will forever have the lasting vision of his shot ringing off the crossbar and into the net in the third-place game.

Miroslav Klose – The Polish born striker had a field day this World Cup, scoring four goals in the tournament’s most entertaining team. What makes Klose so deadly is his ability in the air and with his feet.

Apologize to – Thomas Muller, David Villa, Robert Vittek, Luis Suarez, Asamoah Gyan

Midfielders

Wesley Sneijder – Sneijder scored perhaps the goal of the tournament to sneak by Japan and provided a invaluable asset to the Oranje in the midfield. Scoring both goals against Brazil and again against Uruguay, one can argue that Sneijder led the Dutch to the final.

Arjen Robben – One of the most crafty and sneaky wingers in the world, Robben can create something from absolutely nothing. Yes, the final wasn’t his best game, but there were moments where the 26-year-old showcased his talent. Robben was vital to the Dutch success and drew fouls often. Scoring the go-ahead goal in the semifinal against Uruguay was just one of his highlights.

Mesut Ozil – No player has impressed me more in the tournament than Mesut Ozil. At the beginning of the tournament I didn’t know much about the German team beside the big names like Klose, Podolski and Lahm. I can put Ozil on that list of big names. Ozil led the German attacked and bobbed and weaved his way around defenders in an effort to get the ball to the center or to a following teammate. Ozil brought finesse and a sense of determination to an unproven Germany squad coming into the tournament.

Landon Donovan – Donovan had immense pressure on his shoulders entering the World Cup. No member of the U.S. team even came close. Donovan has had a history of failing to perform when all eyes are locked on him and the pundits are talking. He came through, though. He gave Americans a reason to believe after scoring his game-winning goal against Algeria – a game that has been boosted to one of the most important in the history of U.S. soccer. More importantly, he has brought soccer to some relevance in the States.

Apologies to – Javier Mascherano, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Kevin Prince Boateng, Half of Spain’s midfielders and Michael Bradley

Defenders

Carles Puyol – Until Andres Iniesta scored the World Cup Final’s only goal Puyol had the crown of Spain’s most important goal ever, in its 1-0 win over Germany. Puyol stood tall against Netherlands, shutting down one of the tournament’s most potent offenses.

Giovanni Van Bronckhorst – Scored what to me is the goal of the tournament – a 40-yard strike that put the Netherlands over Uruguay early in their semifinal. The 35-year-old will now retire, with nothing to qualm about. Yes, his team lost in the final, but he should be proud. He led a defense that conceded only six goals in the tournament. I’ve never heard Martin Tyler speak so much and so nicely about a man.

Philipp Lahm – I have never been more entertained by a defender. The 26-year-old, who was recently named captain by Germany coach Joachim Low will be keeping that title for the unseen future. Lahm played stingy defense but used his speed and vision to propel his team’s offensive attack.

Maicon – Brazil’s formidable force at full back, Maicon poses fear in opponent’s eyes. Not only was Maicon a wall defensively, but he was never afraid to jump up offensively.

Apologize to – Arne Friedrich, Diego Lugano, Gabriel Heinze, Gregory Van Der Weil

Goalkeeper

Maarten Stekelenburg – In a tournament that featured stellar goalkeeping, Stekelenburg seemed to rise above that. Coming into the tournament, the Dutch did not have a successor to Edwin Van Der Sar. They do now. The Ajax goalkeeper kept the Dutch in games on more than one occasion. His save on Kaka in the quarter final could be the best of the tournament.

Apologize to – Manuel Neuer, Iker Casillas

Joe’s Last 11

Forwards

Fernando Torres – It’s odd to look to the team that won the tournament for a place on this list. Still, Fernando Torres’ lone contribution came in the final moments of the Spaniards’ win on Sunday when he stalled a little longer than he needed to after maybe, possibly, kind of tweaking his hamstring while trying to chase down a long ball. Given his reaction after the game – donning a Liverpool scarf as he held the World Cup – it seems like he wants to stay at Anfield. His goalless month in South Africa may have been exactly what he needed to accomplish that.

Sydney Govou – During their brief stay in South Africa, Les Bleus looked old, boring and completely overrated. This is exactly why Sydney Govou is the perfect choice for this team. Even during his best days, he’s a boring old French guy who, in all honesty, had no business on this team Another of Raymond Domenech’s wonderful decisions in his final month as the leader of the French national team.

Midfielders

Cristiano Ronaldo – Aside from the most meaningless goal in this entire tournament and a strike from distance that nearly gave Portugal a 1-0 lead in a its opening game against Ivory Coast – the game ended in a scoreless draw – we didn’t really get see the best from the world’s best. When the Portuguese fell to Spain in the Round of 16, Ronaldo failed to do what the best do – help their teams win games they’re not supposed to. He couldn’t do that, but at least he least looked good doing so. Let’s be honest, he’s a good looking cat.

Riccardo Montolivo – This pick is more a scapegoat decision than anything else. Like most Italian players, Montolivo was mediocre at best in the tournament, but I like him least among the Italians so here we are. Gianluigi Buffon says the Italians fell because they lacked experience. Well, he was wrong. They lost because they were old, and they’ll be old in 2014 when they choose the exact same players because the young crop of Italian players aren’t quite as Italian, ahem boring. Players like Mario Balotelli and Giuseppe Rossi aren’t quite Italian enough, or something like that, to represent the country they love in front of the entire world.

Ricardo Clark – Now, he certainly didn’t cost the United States the match against Ghana, but that brilliant first touch of his didn’t exactly prevent the Black Stars from taking the laughably predictable early 1-0 lead against the Yanks. Bob Bradley realized he’d made a mistake in starting Clark shortly after the goal and inserted Maurice Edu in the lineup. At that point, the American midfield performed very well in the game. Hopefully, Edu alongside Bradley is the staple in the middle of the American starting 11 we’ve been waiting for.

Frank Lampard – After further review Frank Lampard scored against Germany. However, Sepp Blatter is inept, so Lampard’s goal never happened, and the English went home early. I never really had issues with the Brits as they represent the nation that officially organized this sport. Still, Lampard plays for Chelsea, and I really don’t like them. So he gets the scapegoat label this time around. If you’re wondering why I chose Lampard over his midfield partner, it’s because, if you remember, Gerrard’s goal counted.

Defenders

Oguchi Onyewu – This is a blog, and I do not need to be objective all the time. With that in mind, I must say that Gooch is among my favorite players. Still, it was disappointing that he wasn’t himself for the tournament. His rehab isn’t complete, and it’s likely not to get much better for the AC Milan center back. At least in terms of his international career, the 28-year-old Onyewu will likely be a reserve at best in the 2014 World Cup.

Johnny Hettinga – The foul that led to his red card that led to Spain’s World Cup-winning goal was questionable. Still, this will be remembered by his Oranje-clad compatriots forever, and for that he gets this honor.

Philippe Senderos – No objectivity. Arsenal reject. Switzerland made me listen to a week’s worth of “Spain is overrated” talk, and it was mighty annoying. Sorry Phillipe.

Aleksandr Lukovic – His pair of yellows put the Serbs down a man against Ghana who eventually won on a Asamoah Gyan penalty. With Lukovic in the game, the Serbs may not have conceded the penalty, which cost them the game. Which, if you want to follow me here, may have cost Ghana a point and pushed Serbia through, which may have resulted in a trip to the quarterfinals for the United States.

Goalkeeper

Luis Suarez – Whether or not you like what he did or think it was unsportsmanlike, Uruguay advanced to the semifinal as a result. Like Thierry Henry, the ends justifies the means. In all honesty, Gyan needed to convert that penalty. He’s the one at fault here, not Suarez.

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2 thoughts on “Best and Worst Performers at the World Cup

  1. Brion says:

    Great pick for goalie, Joe! My vote still goes to Robert Green!!! 😉

  2. Brion says:

    Great pick for goalie, Joe! My vote still goes to Robert Green!!! 😉

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